Monday, October 27, 2008

The "Free and Easy" phenomena

by Chris MaGee

Many of you who check the weekly box office figures that we post may have seen that a film debuted at the # 4 spot this past weekend (October 25th-26th) titled "Free and Easy 19", but I'm pretty sure that not many of you are familiar with the "Free and Easy" series, or as it's known in Japanese "Tsuribaka Nisshi". I'll admit I wasn't until I was speaking with a good friend a few weeks back and she asked if I knew the series of films based on a fishing manga. "Tsurikichi Sanpei?" I answered thinking that she meant the live-action adaptation of Takao Yaguchi's manga starring Kenta Suga that I'd posted about in July. "No, this one stars Rentaro Mikuni," she clarified and I wondered what she was on about. A bit of digging online had me find out that she was right, that Mikuni who starred in such heavy hitting classics as Kon Ichikawa's "The Burmese Harp" and Shohei Imamura's "Vengeance is Mine" has in fact starred in all 19 of the "Tsuribaka Nisshi (Free and Easy)" films since the series started in 1989... but what is this series exactly?

The "Tsuribaka Nisshi" movies are based on the manga of the same name created by writer Jūzō Yamasaki and illustrator Kenichi Kitami in 1979. It tells the story of Densuke Hamasaki, a salaryman and dedicated family man whose one great love besides his wife Michiko and son Koitarou is fishing, in fact his boss at the office has nicknamed him "Tsuribaka" or "Fishing Fool" for his all-consuming love of the sport. Hama-chan, as his Hamasaki's character is more commonly known, has got some fishing buddies in very high places though, namely Ichinosuke Suzuki the CEO of Hama-chan's company who he calls Su-san. The two share comedic adventures as they try and balance their work and family lives, their friendship and of course fishing.

In all of the 19 films that have been made Hama-chan is portrayed by Toshiyuki Nishida (above right) and Su-san by the aforementioned Rentaro Mikuni (above left). Are the "Tsuribaka Nisshi" movies hokey stuff? It sure looks like it, but like such popular film series that came before it like the Tora-san films certain sectors of the Japanese moviegoing audience really seem to connect with the the good old-fashioned laughs and homey storylines.

If you're intrigued to see more of this popular series check out the TV spots for the first two movies plus the full trailer for "Tsuribaka Nisshi (Free and Easy) 19" that is currently riding high at the Japanese box office.

"Tsuribaka Nisshi (Free and Easy) 1" TV Spot

"Tsuribaka Nisshi (Free and Easy) 2" TV Spot

"Tsuribaka Nisshi (Free and Easy) 19" Trailer

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